Might Be More Art Than You Can Handle, Baby

Esopus. Rubber Repertory. So many links.

When you care enough to rend the very best.
When you care enough to rend the very best.

The most recent issue of the twice-yearly Esopus magazine, a printed wunderkammer you should totally know about, is strongly reminiscent of Austin's Rubber Repertory Theatre Company.

This might seem odd, to be so reminded – as Esopus is, as noted, a magazine. And Rubber Rep is, ibid, a theatre company.

And yet, consider the most elaborate and transformational productions from that theatre company: The Casket of Passing Fancy and Biography of Physical Sensation. These were brilliant anthologies of human experience, of art, engaged via the machinery of live showbiz and parlor games. And so is Esopus, always, such an anthology – albeit one in which the experiences are engaged via vivid documentation in image and text and several (ah! so many!) diverse varieties of papery texture and shape.

[Note: My own Minerva's Wreck anthology, the three annual issues of it that were published, one of which featured Rubber Repertory articlewise, was something of a poor man's Esopus. If you're at all familiar with that trilogy and (somehow) not with Esopus, imagine: Minerva's Wreck all glossy and thick and perfect-bound, with the budget of Vanity Fair but still free of advertisements, and contributed to by the likes of, oh, Ed Ruscha and David Lynch and Miranda July.]

[Note: Tod Lippy is the man to blame, mostly, for Esopus; and everyone should be required to buy him chocolate and Crabbie's.]

And yet, as I say, this latest issue …

Something about the way this particular Esopus is bound so that it opens, unusually, horizontally … is reminiscent of the way the Rubber Reppers would thwart audience expectations when presenting their shows. Something about how this latest issue is contained in a gorgeous slipcover that's illustrated with a photo of what seems to be bits of shredded previous Esopus issues … conjures the thought of how the Rubber Rep boys, now working beyond Austin, are enclosing their latest collaborative endeavors in a former church in Lawrence, Kansas.

The first article in Esopus 19 is an excerpt of pages from the cancer-chemo diary of writer and artist Matt Freedman. It's a deeply personal, heavily illustrated journal of internal and external suffering, of surviving, and when I'd recovered from the impact of reading it, it put me in mind of both Biography of Physical Sensation and Rubber Rep's less well known An Evening of Surgery and Childbirth Videos.

[Note: Freedman's complete journal will be published in spring of 2014 by Seven Stories Press, some of whose previous work we've had reason to celebrate.]

The next article is a gorgeous array of images from Sharon Core, who "uses the works of painters ranging from Raphaelle Peale to Wayne Thiebaud as inspiration for her meticulously constructed still-life photographs." Sweet bleeding Gregor Mendel, what a wealth of floral beauty is perfectly printed on these glossy color pages, with three of the pages unfolding to greater size, with a small reproduction of a painting affixed with stickum to one page bearing an image of the plants the artist grew to match the foliage so painterly depicted. And this floral reproduction makes me think of what Devon Dikeou recently had on display at The Contemporary Austin, which makes me flash on a Rubber Rep connection because of the Fusebox Festival time I ran into Josh Meyer on the sidewalk outside that venue, back when it was still known as Arthouse.

[Note: It wasn't Meyer who initially confused the names of Claude Monet and Edouard Manet in the Chronicle's visual-arts listings for Dikeou's exhibit at The Contemporary Austin last month, in case you were paying really close attention.]

And then there's an article reproducing photos by Charles D. Rice, from the Magnum Foundation Legacy Program. These are photos of former ecdysiast Rosita Royce who danced with her seven pigeons at Jones Beach, Long Island, New York, back in 1949 – as part of a huge outdoor spectacle called "A Night in Venice."

Well. If you're at all familiar with the oeuvre of the once and future Rubber Repertory company, this is just the sort of thing that will cause you to think of them instanter, whether or not you include in that thought a vision of Matt Hislope wearing a pigeon costume. Which, to my knowledge, he hasn't yet. But the century is still young.

[Note: Magnum Photos, founded in 1947, was the first cooperative agency established and operated by photographers. And it's still going strong. And in September, the Harry Ransom Center right here in Austin will present Radical Transformation: Magnum Photos into the Digital Age, and we highly recommend seeing this exhibition.]

[Note: "Ecdysiast" is, of course, H. L. Mencken's synonym for "stripper," although it's a word that seems lost to the ravages of time. Those ravages of time have been relatively gentle on me since I got briefly lost at Jones Beach when I was three years old, back in 1965, time's mercy allowing me sufficient vigor to now consume almost all the journalistic output of the Chronicle's Richard Whittaker – who right here covers, ah-ha-ha, a revamped form of vintage strippery as embodied, oh-ho-ho, by Austin's newest burlesque troupe, the Avant Glam Cabaret. Which has nothing to do with Rubber Rep, right? Except insofar as those irrepressible lads once adorned the Chronicle's cover while wearing nothing but orange extension cords and holding large industrial lights – which situation, given a near infinity of possible fetishes, must be someone's idea of burlesque.]

Esopus, oh ye cats and little printer's devils! We haven't even gotten halfway through your latest bounty and already this blogpost is tl,dr!

We've not even mentioned the page after page of stills from David Lynch's masterful Blue Velvet, featuring an introduction by Gregory Crewdson – the artist we noted Ben Shapiro's documentary film of here for SXSW a couple of years ago. We've said nothing of the extensive gallery displaying John Sparagana's intricately braided images, looking like something Austin's own Adreon Henry might create if he were possessed by some obsessive machine intelligence. We've said nada, thus far, about the original music-compilation CD (about customer service, of all things) attached to the inside back cover.

Let's call this lack of further description a form of Spoiler Protection.
Because we don't want to give too much away.
Because we want you to look into it yourself.
Because we love you, reader, and we want the best for you.

And if the best doesn't include a panoply of fabricated wonders as evinced by either or both Esopus and Rubber Repertory, then, fuck it all, we might as well opt for the worst and slash our wrists open in the shitclogged toilet stall of a Wal-Mart restroom somewhere out near Buda.

(But, oh! All that bright red, splattered across the white and blue! It'd be so American …)

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Esopus Magazine, Rubber Repertory, Tod Lippy, Josh Meyer, Matt Hislope, Pilot Balloon, wunderkammer, live theatre experience, multidisciplinary arts

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